Bear Makes Ninja – ‘Shenanagrams’ [Review]
Bear Makes Ninja are more than just a badass band name.
These guys have been making waves in the post-/math-rock world for a fair few years now, and Shenanagrams is guaranteed to plant the Bear Makes Ninja flag firmly in that niche’s bedrock. If you’re of the mind to criticise Bear Makes Ninja’s musicianship, you’re a fuckwit; this album offers many a glorious, grandeur-fuelled moment that will bring big grins to the faces of math-oriented musos across the land.
For me, it’s all about Bob’s Logs – track three, stuffed like a Christmas turkey with chirpy melodies; heavy sections that bring to mind post-hardcore legends Hell Is For Heroes; a straight-up incredible 7/8 section; and some Whammy Pedal-flavoured icing splooged over an already tasty cake. Mental, and magnificent.
That’s not Shenanagrams’ only epic track – but rest assured that if you’re a math fan, you’re going to find a new favourite song in there somewhere.
On the constructively critical end of things, though, Shenanagrams finds Bear Makes Ninja in an awkward but promising position. The main issue with Shenanagrams is that at this point, it sounds not only huge and brilliant, but also more than a little (and I’m cringing as I type this word, because I hate using it) generic – at least within the boundaries of math-rock.
Math- and post-rock are immense genres, and they absolutely deserve their die-hard followings. But with bands like Poly-Math, Press To MECO, Signals, Delta Sleep, HECK, Alright The Captain, Cleft, Let’s Talk Daggers, Nordic Giants, Eschar, For Astronauts And Satellites, And So I Watch You From Afar, Secret Black Boyfriend, Alpha Male Tea Party, Black Peaks, VASA, Pulo Revé, In Dynamics, Mutiny On The Bounty, Arcane Roots, and Marmozets already out there, it’s becoming clear that the best way to make a name for yourself in the world of insane music is to possess an instantly recognisable and unmistakable sound of your own. And the above names are (mostly) underground, leaving out the monolithic math-/post-genre heavyweights, sadly deceased bands with still-sparkling back catalogues, and the new future-oriented bands currently being birthed within the prog universe.
At the moment, Bear Makes Ninja’s sound represents the set of elements that tie the above together (ball-of-twine time signatures; mutated guitar tones; hyperextended harmonic structures; bizarre yet tasteful harmonies; a fetish for oddball effects; quirky Zappa-ish humour) without adding the all-important giant blobs of secret sauce they need to cook up in order to become truly world-class.
Bear Makes Ninja have the talent, skill, determination, ambition, vision, technical ability, ears, and everything else they need to express the utter uniqueness that undoubtedly lies within them. At the end of the day, you can’t compete with originality – but for the time being, it’s all too inevitable to compare Shenanagrams (which is, again, an awesome album in its own right) to the competition.
Having said all that, I’m still going to listen to Shenanagrams again – and urge you to do it at least twice.
TMMP RATING: 86%
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